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What Are Buyer Personas? Why Do You Need Them? And How Do You Create Them?

While marketers often work to produce content that differentiates them and describes the benefits of their products and services, they often miss the mark on producing content for each type of person buying their product or service.

For instance, if your prospect seeks a new hosting service, a marketer focused on search and conversions may prioritize performance, while the IT director may prioritize security features. You must speak to both, often requiring you to target each with specific advertisements and content.

In short, it’s about segmenting your company’s messaging to each of the types of prospects you need to speak to. Some examples of missed opportunities:

  • Conversions – A company focuses on content getting the most attention on its site rather than identifying the personas driving conversions. If 1% of your site’s visitors turn into customers, you need to target that 1% and identify who they are, what compelled them to convert, and then figure out how to speak to others like them.
  • Industries – A company’s platform serves multiple industries, but the generic content on its site speaks to businesses in general. Without industry in the content hierarchy, prospects visiting the site from a specific segment cannot visualize or conceive how the platform will help them.
  • Positions – A company’s content speaks directly to the overall business results their platform has provided but neglects to single out how the platform assists each job position within the company. Companies make purchase decisions collaboratively, so it’s essential that each position impacted is communicated to.

Instead of focusing on your brand, products, and services to develop a hierarchy of content that positions each, you instead look at your company from the eyes of your buyer and build out content and messaging programs that speak directly to their motivation for becoming a customer of your brand.

What are Buyer Personas?

Buyer personas are fictional identities that represent the types of prospects that your business is speaking to.

Brightspark Consulting offers this infographic of a B2B Buyer Persona:

Buyer Persona Profile
Source: Brightspark

Examples of Buyer Personas

A publication like Martech Zone, for example, serves multiple personas:

  • Susan, the Chief Marketing Officer – Sue is the decision-maker regarding technology purchases to assist her company’s marketing needs. Sue uses our publication to both discover and research tools.
  • Dan, the Marketing Director – Dan is developing the strategies to implement the best tools to assist their marketing, and he wants to keep up with the latest and greatest technologies.
  • Sarah, the Small Business Owner – Sarah doesn’t have the monetary resources to hire a marketing department or agency. They seek best practices and inexpensive tools to improve their marketing without breaking their budget.
  • Scott, the Marketing Technology Investor – Scott is trying to keep an eye out for the latest trends in the industry that he invests in.
  • Katie, the Marketing Intern – Katie is going to school for marketing or public relations and wants to understand the industry better to get a great job when she graduates.
  • Tim, the Marketing Technology Provider – Tim wants to watch for partner companies he might integrate with or competing services.

As we write our posts, we communicate directly to some of these personas. In the case of this post, it would be Dan, Sarah, and Katie that we’re focused on.

These examples, of course, aren’t the detailed versions – they’re just an overview. The actual persona profile can and should go much deeper in insight as to every element of the persona’s profile… industry, motivation, reporting structure, geographic location, gender, salary, education, experience, age, etc. The more refined your persona, the clearer your communication will become in speaking to prospective buyers.

A Video on Buyer Personas

This fantastic video from Marketo details how buyer personas help them identify gaps in content and accurately target an audience that’s more likely to purchase your products or services. Marketo advises the following key profiles that should always be included in a Buyer Persona:

  • Name:  A made-up persona name may seem silly, but it can be useful for helping a marketing team discuss their customers and make it more tangible for planning how to reach them
  • Age: A persona’s age or age range allows for understanding generation-specific characteristics.
  • Interests:  What are their hobbies? What do they like to do in their spare time? These questions can help shape the content theme they will likely engage with.
  • Media Usage: Their media platforms and channels will impact how and where they can be reached.
  • Finances:  Their income and other financial characteristics will determine what types of products or services they’re shown and what price points or promotions might make sense.
  • Brand Affinities:  If they like certain brands, this can provide hints as to what content they respond well to.

Download How To Create A Buyer Persona and Journey

Why Use Buyer Personas?

As the infographic below describes, using buyer personas made sites 2 to 5 times more effective by targeting users. Speaking directly to specific audiences in your written content or video works extremely well. You may even wish to add a navigation menu on your site specific to industry or job position personas.

Using buyer personas in your email program increases click-through rates on emails by 14% and conversion rates by 10% – driving 18 times more revenue than broadcast emails.

One of the most important tools a marketer has for creating the types of targeted ads that result in increased sales and conversions – like the kind seen in the case of Skytap – is the buyer persona.

Target Acquired: The Science of Building Buyer Personas

Buyer personas build marketing efficiency, alignment, and effectiveness with a uniform target audience when communicating with potential clients through advertising, marketing campaigns, or within your content marketing strategies.

If you have a buyer persona, you can hand that off to your creative team or your agency to save them time and increase the likelihood of marketing effectiveness. Your creative team will understand the tone, style, and delivery strategy and where buyers are researching elsewhere.

Buyer Personas, when mapped to the Buying Journeys, help companies identify the gaps in their content strategies. In my first example, where an IT professional was concerned about security, third-party audits or certifications could be included in marketing and advertising material to put that team member at ease.

How to Create Buyer Personas

We tend to start by analyzing our current customers and then work our way back to a wider audience. Measuring everyone doesn’t make sense… remember most of your audience will never purchase from you.

Creating personas may require heavy research on affinity mapping, ethnographic research, netnography, focus groups, analytics, surveys, and internal data. More often than not, companies look to professional market research companies that do demographic, firmographic, and geographic analysis of their customer base; then, they perform a series of qualitative and quantitative interviews with your customer base.

At that point, the results are segmented, information is compiled, each persona is named, the goals or call-to-action are communicated, and the profile is constructed.

Buyer Personas should be revisited and optimized as your organization shifts its products and services and acquires new customers that don’t naturally fit into your current personas.

How to Create Buyer Personas

Douglas Karr

Douglas Karr is CMO of OpenINSIGHTS and the founder of the Martech Zone. Douglas has helped dozens of successful MarTech startups, has assisted in the due diligence of over $5 bil in Martech acquisitions and investments, and continues to assist companies in implementing and automating their sales and marketing strategies. Douglas is an internationally recognized digital transformation and MarTech expert and speaker. Douglas is also a published author of a Dummie's guide and a business leadership book.

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